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Northampton council approves money to settle lawsuit with firefighters

Mayor David J. Narkewicz said the money would allow the city to fund the settlement. “That account does not have enough funds to cover the settlement,” the mayor said.

He declined to discuss specifics of the settlement until it is approved in Hampshire Superior Court. “I really want to withold comment on the matter until such time as its resolved by the court,” Narkewicz said.

During its meeting Thursday, the council took the two required votes to authorize a transfer of $45,000 from its free cash account into a legal judgement account to use if a settlement is finalized. Earlier that evening, Narkewicz briefed the council about the lawsuit during executive session. The council approved the transfer unanimously and with no discussion as several members of the Fire Department looked on from the audience.

The lawsuit was filed last February by three firefighters — Michael Hatch, Matthew Marchand and Natalie Stollmeyer — who contend the city is obligated to pay the raises, known as step increases, to firefighters and captains as they gain seniority and experience through the first eight years of service.

The raises were scheduled to begin at the start of fiscal 2012, or July 1, 2011.

The city and then-Mayor Clare Higgins, however, froze the raises in response to a budget shortfall. The firefighters claim in their lawsuit that the city’s actions violate the collective bargaining agreement between the two sides.

This is the second lawsuit Narkewicz has settled in the last six months. In late August, the Pioneer Valley Hotel Group agreed to dismissed its claims against the city in a failed hotel development project in exchange for $12,500. The money is a partial refund of deposits the company earlier paid to the city.

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